For the first time since the operation in Gaza got underway, IDF artillery cannons started to shell targets in the Strip. The IDF said that by Saturday evening hundreds of shells had been fired at precise targets in Gaza. Much of Gaza was enveloped by darkness as night fell.
IDF artillery cannons began pounding the eastern sector of the Gaza Strip around 4 pm Saturday. Ynet correspondent Ron Ben-Yishai reported that portable artillery batteries are engaging in a heavy bombardment of the area.
This is the first time in three years that the IDF has fired artillery shells at Gaza targets.
The target: Gaza (Photo: Reuters)
Most shells are landing in what the Palestinians characterize as the "security zone" adjacent to the Gaza Strip fence. The IDF is targeting rocket launching sites in Jabaliya, Khan Younis, and Beit Hanoun.
Dozens hurt at Gaza mosque
Palestinian witnesses said the barrage caused a large explosion in Gaza City. Later, Palestinian sources reported that at least 10 people were killed and dozens injured in a blast in a Beit Lahiya mosque in the northern Gaza Strip.
Meanwhile, Air Force aircraft continued to drop leaflets in Gaza, calling on residents to leave their homes in order to avoid injury. The leaflets dropped Saturday read: "Area resident, as result of the acts undertaken by terror activists in your area against Israel, the IDF is forced to respond immediately and operate in this area. For your own safety, you are asked to leave the area immediately."
Earlier Saturday, the Air Force attacked a vehicle in Khan Younis carrying Hamas officer Muhammad Maaruf and another group member. The two were reportedly killed in the strike. Saturday morning, a senior Hamas commander was assassinated.
More than 800 targets hitThe Air Force targeted more than 40 sites in Gaza Saturday, including a launching site used for firing rockets on the southern city of Ashdod. A training facility and underground tunnel were also attacked. Overall, the Air Force struck more than 800 targets since the Gaza operation got underway.
IDF officials say that the aerial assaults on Gaza have achieved their objectives and were planned to cause Hamas significant damage by targeting terror infrastructure and senior figures.
"The activity so far is effective and has harmed the organization, yet Hamas has not yet raised a white flag," one official said. "It won't do it anytime soon, if at all, and we shall continue operating using the variety of means at our disposal."
Overnight, the IDF attacked more than 25 Gaza targets, including a college used as a hideout and meeting place for Hamas members.
Hanan Greenberg, Ali Waked and Reuters contributed to the story